Blake Shelton presented a unique problem for our Top Country Songs of the Century collection. His string of No. 1 hits has lasted six years, but finding one or two a room full of fans and experts could agree on was nearly impossible.

When “Austin” was mentioned, there was a poignant pause. Shelton’s debut single features a sterling vocal performance that let fans and the industry know that the goofy kid from Oklahoma was a true country vocalist. His storytelling abilities during this and several of his early hits are unmatched. That’s rare for a singer as young as he was in 2001 (just 25 years old).

The multi-week No. 1 went platinum for one million pre-iTunes singles sold. Fans also heard his twang on pop radio, which speaks to the undeniable integrity of writers David Kent and Kirsti Manna’s lyrics.

About this list: Taste of Country’s Top Country Songs of the Century were decided by a panel of country music experts and fans using sales and chart data, a song’s social and musical impact and lyrical integrity. Select artists were also surveyed. You’ll hear from several throughout the list.